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Iraqi Christians reprieved; Swedish Christian faces deportation

April 7, 2011 One Comment

by James Morgan 

Two recent court actions saw a reprieve for five Iranian Christians awaiting trial for alleged blasphemy, and a deportation order for a former Iraqi Imam, now living in Sweden, who converted to Christianity.

Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Kandjani

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in the United Kingdom, the blasphemy trial of Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Kandjani, Medi Furutan, Mohammad Beliad, Parviz Khalaj, and Nazly Beliad was adjourned until April 12 due to a lack of evidence. Lawyers representing the five men have always maintained there are no legal grounds for the charges. They remain optimistic the case will be dismissed.

However, the prosecution will use the period of adjournment to gather more evidence against the accused. The five men received a one-year sentence for crimes against the Islamic Order in an earlier trial at the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz. Their legal team also believes this sentence will be withdrawn upon appeal.

“CSW urges the Iranian government to ensure that these men receive due process, and are acquitted of all charges that have no legal bearing under Iranian law,” says National Director for the UK, Stuart Windsor, noting there is also still concern for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is awaiting an appeal against a death sentence for apostasy. “The international community must press Iran to end the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of religious minorities purely on account of their faith,” Mr. Windsor further states.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, the highest immigration court has ruled a former Muslim Imam who converted to Christianity should be deported to Iraq, even though he would face certain persecution, possibly jail if he returns to his native country. According to an online report from DAGEN, a Swedish independent Christian news site, the former Imam is part of a Baptist congregation and its members have gathered numerous signatures testifying the man is a committed Christian now living a life of faith.

“This is a genuine conversion, and many of us can testify that this is a man who lives as a Christian,” says Bengt Sjoborg, a local official in Karlskoga, where the former Imam lives. Mr. Sjoborg has appealed the former Muslim cleric’s case to the European court and is hopeful for a delay in the deportation pending the resolution of the appeal.

Until 2000, Lutheranism was the state religion of Sweden.